Before we ask the main question, (whether America underwent a revolution in the Late 18th century) we must first define what a revolution is. In the past it used to mean there was a change in the society but then after a period of time it would return to the way it was, hence the word revolution, to revolve. Now if you look it up in the dictionary it tends to mean something radically changes and then stay’s that way i.e.
” Fundamental change in values, political institutions, social structure and leadership brought about by a large scale revolt.” The totality of change in a revolution distinguishes it from coups, rebellions and wars of independence, which seek to achieve only particular changes. For a complete revolution to take place there are six stages which should be completed, though it is impossible to predict the exact course of a revolution so this is just a guideline.
The first of the stages is breaking away from the past, this is the stage that takes place even before the revolutionaries can think of setting up a new order for society. This stage is the weakening of the old society or government. Now that the the old order has fallen there is an apparent period of calming down, though peoples expectations are still high, if the new order doesn’t resolve the issues that caused the political upheaval in the first place then the days of moderation will be short lived, this stage is called ” The weakness of Moderates”. A revolution is like starting again with a clean plate, so there is a radical backlash against prior powers.
This stage eliminates all the old order and it’s sympathisers, as they are seen as evil or corrupt, shortly anyone who is suspected of sharing or longing to go back to the old ways could become a target for social cleansing. This stage is called ”wiping out the past” for obvious reasons. The next stage is the ”temporary set back” or ”Thermidor”, this is when a revolution tries to turn back, though these temporary retreats are usually just pauses to regain strength. Then comes dictatorship or ”Bonapartism”, meaning that all the ideals in a revolution are ultimately betrayed by a dictator. Bonapartism is the gaining of power using military strength.
The final stage is restoration, this is the loop in the stages, when everything returns to basically the way it was except under a different power. After roughly all these stages have been passed there has been a definite revolution. The first ideas of revolution came from the ”Boston radicals” and the first real problems came from the intolerable acts, these were the ”Stamp act” and the ”declaratory act”.
When the ”stamp act” was put into action by the British (the stamp act stated that everything must have a tax and a stamp put on it), the colonists were outraged and complained, they were called Ungrateful children” by the British (this was because Britain had given them so much, land, a new beginning, helped them fight the Indians and now after one small restriction they start complaining). As a protest to the ”stamp act” the colonies boycotted English goods, and the English factories certainly felt the pinch. To try to break the protest England sent over some very cheap but good tea, thinking the colonies couldn’t resist it, but instead of buying it the Boston radicals poured it all into Boston harbour at night. What the American colonies did was the first stage of the revolution, weakening the old society/government.When there were the questionings between the colonists and Britain, the colonists were effectively forced to choose from one of four options, these went from English patriots to focused revolutionists, the main issue this brings up is, was it really a real revolution if not everyone wanted to revolve.
In fact at first it seemed only a small percentage of the population wanted to fight, ”only two out of the states were fully agreed”. Option 1: Supported Britain without question, proud to be English and real patriots.Option 2: Want to restore peace but want a British-American council with delegates from each of the thirteen colonies and EnglandOption 3: Want to become their own rulers and look after themselves, have their own council, rules and laws, but still remain British.Option 4: Against England altogether and want a revolution.When Hutcherdson (The kings royal governor of Massachusetts) noticed how the colonies reacted to the stamp act he sent a letter to England asking for help to help calm down the people.
Later on Ben Franklyn finds the letter and decides to send it to America, knowing it will get published; he hopes that this will turn the attention away from England for a while and the colonies would blame Hutcherdson. Sure enough a mob trashed Hutherdsons house. This was the beginnings of stage three trying to wipe out the past.
To me it appears that stage two was missed out, as there was no rest or temporary set back.The American patriots began stockpiling large quantities of weapons and gunpowder. Gage (The military leader of the British army in America) scheduled a mission to seize a stockpile in Concord. Minutemen (members of the local militias) were warned of their arrival and seventy had assembled on the village green in Lexington (5 miles from Concorde).
At dawn 700 British troops arrived and came face to face with the minutemen, after an order to move from Gage the minutemen stood their ground, this I think really shows how determined they were because they knew they were incredibly outnumbered. A gun went off and the British opened fire, leaving 8 minute men dead. News of the bloodshed quickly reached Concorde, and more minutemen countered the British on the bridge. Gages army retreated facing many hit and run attacks on the way back to Boston. In all 73 British troops had been lost or wounded from the 200 and the militia had lost about 100.
This first battle really showed the dramatic escalation in the struggle between the British and the colonies. This looks like more of stage three wiping out more of the past but also the beginning of stage five using military force to gain power and also soon the arrival of Washington as a kind of dictator or head of the force.Later Washington surrounded Boston, and decided to fortify two small hills overlooking the harbour.
On June 17 There was the battle of bunker hill, though the British managed to dislodge the patriots they had lost or had wounded 1000 British troops, the colonists also demonstrated their extreme courage. Washington was then put into command of the colonial forces, that’s when the military stalemate began around Boston. Washington had no artillery so could not force the British out of Boston, and Gage lacked the forces required to attack.
Even after the wars had started many people still believed everything would end happily and go back to the way it was. In January 1776 Tom Paine wrote a book called ”Common sense” in it he wrote that it really was time for America to become independent, many people agreed in England and urged the government to give in. In June 1776 it was too late for peace so they made a statement of independence which eventually made its way to congress, they signed it and so America broke away from its mother country.Then after a period of time America returned to its old routines just under there own new management completing the stages of revolution, number six, ”Restoration”.So overall I believe it was a revolution just with a few differences.
It seemed to follow the steps of revolution pretty well (the steps I mentioned at the begging), though very roughly, sometimes it seemed pretty hard to actually identify precisely the stages and I couldn’t even find a soul piece of evidence that mentioned stage two (a rest or set back in the revolution). So like following a recipe following the basic guidelines, and making changes throughout it, you will nearly always end with the same sort of result (a complete revolution), though no two results are ever identical.